Monday, January 19, 2009

60:40 or 50:50?

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Friday, 16 January 2009 10:12
The soothsayers are divided. Some say that the Kuala Terengganu by-election is a 50:50 situation. Others say it is 60:40, in favour of PAS. On a level playing field I would tend to agree with the 60:40 prediction. However, seeing that the playing is anything but level, I would tend to go for the 50:50 forecast -- unless PAS is able to plug all the holes.

First of all, Umno is paying up to RM1,000 per vote. And this is how the system works. A voter goes into the polling station to collect his/her ballot paper. He/she then puts it in his/her pocket. He/she drops a dummy ballot paper into the ballot box. He/she comes out and ‘sells’ the ballot paper to an Umno goon waiting outside. He/she goes home RM1,000 the richer.The blank ballot paper is marked Barisan Nasional. It is then given to the next voter. He/she collects his/her ballot paper and puts it in his/her pocket. He/she drops the already marked ballot paper into the ballot box. He/she comes out and hands over the blank ballot paper to the Umno goon waiting outside in exchange for RM1,000.

The process is repeated thousands of times all over Kuala Terengganu at the 38 polling stations. Another method would be: the voter goes into the polling station with his/her hand phone. He/she marks the ballot paper in the Barisan Nasional box and photographs it with his/her hand phone. He/she then drops the ballot paper into the ballot box. He/she comes out and shows the photo in the hand phone to an Umno goon and receives RM1,000.

All this is of course further to the ‘phantom voters’ who will be voting tomorrow. One man closely related to the Agong showed me the electoral roll where four unknown Chinese voters were registered at his house address. He does not know who these four Chinese are and how they got registered at his house address. How many thousands more are ‘registered voters’ in this manner is yet to be known because not all house owners check the electoral role to look for strangers registered at their address. But expect the figure to run into the thousands. And also expect all these strangers to come out to vote tomorrow.

8,000 registered voters live and work outside Kuala Terengganu. This means 10% of the Kuala Terengganu voters are out of town. Will they all come home to vote? If not, then how many will? The lower the voter turnout, the more chance Barisan Nasional will have of padding the ballot box.

The average voter turnout in any general election is roughly 75%. It is sometimes even lower in a by-election. Tomorrow, Kuala Terengganu may see a voter turnout as high as 80% to 85%. In the 2004 general election, the voter turnout in Kuala Terengganu was 130%, as it was in Kuala Selangor and some other places all over Malaysia. After the ‘error’ was pointed out by Malaysiakini, the figure was ‘adjusted’ to 85% or so.

When asked to explain the voter turnout of 130%, the Elections Commission said that the 130% figure was not yet gazetted so it is unofficial. It is not official until it is gazetted. The gazetted figure was then adjusted to make it look more believable.

Invariably, Umno knows it can’t win the Kuala Terengganu by-election tomorrow unless its cheats like hell. In a fair and free election, Pakatan Rakyat is going to win the by-election with a majority of 5,000 votes. They need to ensure that Barisan Nasional wins by at least 1,000 votes. So the vote buying and rigging needs to be maximised like there is no tomorrow.

I have placed a bet on Pakatan Rakyat winning the Kuala Terengganu by-election tomorrow with a 5,000-vote majority. Will Pakatan Rakyat be able to plug all the holes and ensure that this happens? Or am I going to be a slightly poorer person by tomorrow night? Let’s wait and see.

The Chinese voters in Kuala Terengganu are very upset. Barisan Nasional has been handing out millions of ringgit to their schools and associations -- plus RM300 Chinese New Year ‘Ang Pows’ to each voter.

“Why are you insulting us by giving us RM300 Ang Pows?” one reasonably rich Chinese asked me. “Do you think we are so bangsat we need this RM300?” “If the government treats the Chinese better you do not need to bribe us with RM300. If you treat us better we can give the government RM300. RM300 is nothing. It is a small amount.”

The fact that the government needs to give us RM300 means the government has not treated the Chinese well. That is why they give us RM300 to buy our votes. If not, no need to give us any money. We can give the government money instead.”

I never thought of it that way. And probably neither did Barisan Nasional. I suppose the many dinners thrown over the last two weeks lies testimony to this. The Chinese pay to attend the Pakatan Rakyat dinners. And the hall is not only packed but overflowing as well. The crowd is not just inside the hall. Hundreds more stand outside to listen to the many speeches. And they stay till the very end.

And in spite of everyone having to pay for the dinner, when the collection box is passed around everyone puts in RM50 notes into the box. Tens of thousands are collected every night. And this is further to the dinner that they pay for. Barisan Nasional invites the Chinese to free diners. However, not only is the hall half empty, the Chinese whack the food and then leave before the speeches start. By the time the speeches start most people have gone home.

Throwing money to the Chinese does not work. For every ringgit Barisan Nasional throws to the Chinese, they throw back double that amount to Pakatan Rakyat. It is ironical that Barisan Nasional is in fact giving Pakatan Rakyat money through the Chinese. The Barisan Nasional money given to the Chinese ends up in the hands of Pakatan Rakyat, plus more.

That is all for now, my brief report this morning. I now have to take Zaid Ibrahim to Chinatown for breakfast and for one last walkabout before Polling Day. Till we speak again, take care and phone all those Kuala Terengganu voters outside the state and convince them to come home to vote tomorrow.

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